New safety rules for fraternities at the University of Virginia would require at least three “sober and lucid” members to monitor behavior at parties, prohibit pre-mixed alcoholic drinks and implement guest lists to control entry to the houses during an event.
The rules, made public Tuesday, also stipulate that one of the sober party monitors must be posted at a staircase leading to bedrooms and have “immediate key access to each room” in the house. That measure appears designed to prevent situations that could lead to sexual assault at U-Va’s fraternities.
The safety initiative arose in response to a Rolling Stone magazine article in November that depicted a female student saying she was gang-raped at a fraternity house during her freshman year. That article unraveled last month as key elements of the rape allegation fell into doubt and the magazine’s managing editor apologized for journalistic lapses.
But university officials and leaders of Greek organizations, among others in the U-Va. community, pledged to continue a push to improve safety at U-Va. regardless.
With that in mind, the university unveiled an addendum to its “fraternal organization agreement” with 31 chapters belonging to U-Va.’s Inter-Fraternity Council. Of those, 28 have houses, which are often the scene of parties where alcohol is available.
At the same time, the university released another safety addendum for its agreements with sororities and fraternities that belong to other Greek councils. That document promises steps to promote “bystander intervention” — a method of preventing sexual violence — as well as educational programs on alcohol use and safe parties.
On Nov. 22, three days after the Rolling Stone article appeared, U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan announced a suspension of social activities for campus Greek organizations. On Tuesday, Sullivan said the suspension would be lifted immediately, on condition that each chapter agree to the new safety provisions by Jan. 16, the second day of fraternity spring rush.
“I believe the new safety measures recommended by the student leaders in the Greek community will help provide a safer environment for their members and guests,” Sullivan said in a statement. “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our student leaders who have worked so diligently in the past several weeks to bring forth substantive recommendations and improvements consistent with the ideals of our community of trust.”
IFC President Tommy Reid credited numerous fraternity and sorority members, among others, for working “around the clock for the past month and half to develop these improvements to our system.” The council, he said, “is excited for the spring semester and looks forward to continuing to lead the advancement of student safety at the university.”
It is unclear how the new rules for the IFC will change the party culture at Virginia’s flagship public university. J. Marshall Pattie, an associate dean of students, said some of the provisions — such as sober party monitors — already have been customary.
Now there will be a standard protocol: At least three “sober brothers” on duty at all parties, with more required as needed. At least one monitor must be stationed wherever alcohol is distributed, and at least one must be at the staircase. The monitors also must wear something that identifies them — with the identification common for all chapters.
On alcohol, the rules say that beer can be served in unopened cans and that wine can be served if visibly poured by a sober fraternity member. Prohibited are “pre-mixed drinks, punches or any other common source of alcohol.” That means no beer kegs. Hard liquor can be served at large events if a fraternity hires a bartender through a company with a state license, or at smaller events if bottles are placed at a bar overseen by a sober monitor.
The documents released Tuesday make scant mention of laws against serving alcohol to people under the age of 21. Underlying the rules there appears to be an assumption that college students will drink at parties, regardless of the law, and that the university should try to make those parties as safe as possible.
On guest lists, Pattie said fraternities often have had such controls but that enforcement has varied. Sometimes, he said, a fraternity member might have asked a brother to wave somebody into a party who was not on the list. The new rules will call for a hired security agent to be stationed at the door during large parties to check guest lists. At smaller parties, a fraternity member will check the list.
These provisions are described in a section of the rules headlined, “Eliminating discomfort and chaos: Entry management.”